One of our diverse SOGIESC #RealLifeHeroes is Beth Delaibatiki (Illi). Illi is an activist with Rainbow Pride Foundation (Fiji) and a member of Edge Effect’s Regional Advisory Group. Illi specialises in research, and was one of the Rainbow Pride researchers on Edge Effect’s Down By the River report. Illi is involved in DRR work in Fiji, and is a strong advocate for the diverse SOGIESC community in DRR planning and response.
Tell me a bit about yourself
I am a a Community Engagement liaison Assistant for Rainbow Pride Foundation (Fiji). In 2017, I was one of the local researchers in the ‘Down by the River’ project. At the time, Rainbow Pride Foundation was working in partnership with Edge Effect to carry out the first ever research for LGBTIQ people in the DRR in Fiji. I currently sit on the Regional Advisory Group for Edge Effect, advising on research stemming from the recommendations of the Pride in Humanitarian System.
What inspires you to advocate for Social Change?
I am a victim and survivor of sexual, domestic & verbal abuse, as well as discrimination and stigma from my own family, relatives, community, and church. I went through a lot during my younger days. I managed to face those challenges and life experiences and build peace with on my personal journey.
What is your experience with humanitarian disasters?
I am a trained and a registered Red Cross Volunteer. And I have a passion to serve my community during and after any kind of disaster in Fiji. I am so fortunate to learn a lot from Fiji Red Cross.
How did you become involved in supporting LGBTIQ+ people in Humanitarian contexts?
It was through my experiences with Fiji Lautoka Red Cross Branch. I was involved in conducting community assessments. I realised that many LGBTIQ people were earning money and supporting their families in non-disaster times, but not able to get any support or relief after the disasters. Many of the Red Cross volunteers were also LGBTIQ+, and I started to push the agenda of LGBTIQ+ inclusion in disaster recovery.
What are some of the challenges you face in advocating for more inclusion in the Humanitarian System?
One of my biggest challenges in this work is the discrimination and stigma from other stakeholders. I experienced discrimination when I was a part of the NDMO team that carried out the assessment and relief during TC Sarai in Kadavu. A representative from a different government department complained about me. They wanted to know why I was involved, why RPF was involved, why we need to focus on LGBTQI people. They accused me of doing a membership drive. They complained about the clothes I wore, and questioned why I am wearing a UN AIDS t-shirt, saying it is inappropriate for the assessment work in the field. We were there as a part of the national Community Engagement Cluster in Fiji. We managed to work it out and I got an apology, but I faced a lot of discrimination before that.
If there was one change that you would like to see for LGBTIQ+ people, what would that change be?
To live free from being discriminated against just for who we are and who we love.
What are ways can Humanitarian and development organizations support LGBTIQ+ Inclusion?
Work together in collaboration in any humanitarian activities or to form an alliance working together for the common goal that leaves no one behind.